Raychelle Cassada Lohmann Ph.D.

Teen Angst

Dealing With Difficult Teachers

How to make it through the year with a teacher you don't like.

Posted Aug 31, 2016

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Kyle came home from school and slammed the door so hard the windows rattled. His mother ran into the room to see what all of the commotion was about. When she arrived she witnessed Kyle throwing his backpack across the floor and angrily mumbling something. "What on earth is going on Kyle?" she asked. "Man, I can't stand that teacher! It's like I walk into his class with a target on my back!" "Which ‘teacher’ are you talking about?" Kyle's mother questioned. "Mr. Smith! Mom, you have to get me out of that class..." he pleaded.

As schools are beginning to start, many teens are eagerly waiting to see their courses. They compare schedules with friends to see if they are in the same classes. They look to see if they have lunch together. They also swap and compare notes on teachers. Well, sometimes that last point can get sticky…particularly if they get into a class with a teacher they dislike.

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Rather than running to the school for a schedule change, sometimes it’s best to help teens work through personality differences. Overall, this will help them in the future when they are faced with similar situations with college professors, employers, etc. The truth is, oftentimes we can't alter difficult situations and as a result have to deal with what we've been given. So before requesting a teacher change, try some of the strategies below with your teen:

1. Find out what it is about the teacher that’s troubling your teen. For example, was it a negative vibe your teen got in the class or was it a friend's horror story about the same teacher? Remember, you are only getting one version of the story and there’s a whole other perspective that’s equally important.

2. Encourage your teen to speak with the teacher, confidentially. Be aware that your teen may try to avoid conversing with the teacher, so you may have to instruct him/her on how to begin a conversation. Having a student/teacher conference may help your teen develop a working relationship and set the tone for a positive experience. As a bonus, it will also provide your teen with an opportunity to resolve his/her own dilemmas, with a little coaching from you, of course.

3. If your teen is adamant about not meeting with the teacher, than step it up a notch and help your teen set up a student/teacher conference. Sometimes, teens just need someone to break the ice before they take the plunge.

4. Follow-up with your teen and the teacher. If things don't seem to be getting better, than make an appointment with the teacher. Monitor to see if progress is being made by sending electronic correspondence to the teacher and keeping a line of communication open with your teen.

5. Document, document, and document some more. For each appointment, email and/or phone call - keep a record of your contacts and correspondence. This will assist you if you need to take your concerns to administration. The first question most administrators ask is “have you discussed these concerns with the teacher?” Your documentation will serve as proof that you and your teen have gone above and beyond to resolve the issue.

Viktor Rudo/Depositphotos
Source: Viktor Rudo/Depositphotos

When to speak to a Counselor or Administrator:

1. If something unethical or unprofessional is occurring in the classroom than speak to a school counselor or principal immediately. Unprofessional situations require prompt attention and should not go undocumented.

2. If you have used the strategies above and no resolution has occurred than you have taken the proper steps to resolve the issue and bringing a counselor or administrator into the situation for an intervention is a good idea.

Learning how to deal with personality conflicts and difficult people is part of life. By using the strategies outlined above, you can teach your teen how to appropriately communicate and adjust to diverse personality styles. Teaching your teen to appropriately express his/her concerns instills confidence; plus, it shows he/she is growing up.

...Kyle ran through the door and shouted at the top of his lungs. His mother raced into the room to see what all of the commotion was about. "What on earth is going on Kyle?" she asked. "Last day of school, summer break and I just aced Mr. Smith's exam! His mother just smiled shook her head and walked out of the room. For she knew not only did Kyle ace Mr. Smith's final, but he had also mastered an important life lesson.